Aspen del­e­ga­tion at­tends ‘gross na­tional hap­pi­ness’ con­fer­ence in Bhutan

Bhutan Times - - Editorial - By Cur­tis Wack­erle

While at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence last month in the Hi­malayan king­dom of Bhutan cov­er­ing how “gross na­tional hap­pi­ness” should be con­sid­ered along with eco­nomic out­put, Jim True was struck by what was not said.

There had been al­most no dis­cus­sion about the im­pact of one’s con­nec­tion to the nat­u­ral world on hap­pi­ness at the gath­er­ing put on by the Cen­tre for Bhutan Stud­ies & Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness. “GNH of Busi­ness” was the sev­enth con­fer­ence the en­tity had pro­duced on the topic and it at­tracted some 400 gov­ern­ment lead­ers, aca­demics, so­ci­ol­o­gists and sci­en­tists from 26 coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

True, who is Aspen’s city at­tor­ney and whose po­si­tion on the board of the Aspen In­ter­na­tional Moun­tain Foun­da­tion gar­nered him an in­vite to the con­fer­ence, went for a hike to a monastery known as the Tiger’s Nest the day be­fore he was sup­posed to speak and he saw some­thing that re­in­forced what was al­ready the fo­cus of his re­marks. There was a wooden sign at the trail­head that read: “Pre­serve our nat­u­ral rich her­itage. Do not pol­lute the sur­round­ings. Re­mem­ber, na­ture is the source of all hap­pi­ness.”

The sign res­onated and he added it into his talk, which also cov­ered ef­forts in Aspen to get more peo­ple ac­tive and out­side. He dis­cussed the Aspen City of Well­be­ing non­profit that part­ners with gov­ern­ment agen­cies and pri­vate busi­nesses to in­crease em­ployee well­ness and the Aspen Ski­ing Co., which re­lies on en­thu­si­asm for the out­doors as part of its profit model.

The six-day trip was funded by the Aspen In­ter­na­tional Moun­tain Foun­da­tion and the con­fer­ence or­ga­niz­ers.

Lor­raine Miller, a Col­orado Moun­tain Col­lege Aspen fac­ulty mem­ber, also made the trip and chaired a panel on busi­ness en­ter­prise. She is work­ing with the col­lege and the Bhutan Trust for En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion on a pos­si­ble ex­change that would bring Bhutanese for­est and park rangers to Col­orado. She had also trav­eled to Bhutan, where the na­tional lan­guage is Dzongkha and the Ti­betan al­pha­bet is used in writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in 2016 through an ar­range­ment with AIMF, in the ser­vice of her lan­guage stud­ies. Miller teaches de­vel­op­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion and English as a se­cond lan­guage.

While in the coun­try that is slightly smaller than Switzer­land and is home to some 800,000 peo­ple, True and Miller met the Bhutanese prime min­is­ter and the leader of the coun­try’s par­lia­men­tary op­po­si­tion party, who may be­come the next prime min­is­ter.

The Aspen In­ter­na­tional Moun­tain Foun­da­tion, which serves on the steer­ing com­mit­tee of the United Na­tions Moun­tain Part­ner­ship, works to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties.

The Bhutanese con­fer­ence ex­plored ways that busi­nesses around the world cur­rently achieve gross na­tional hap­pi­ness, which “at­tempts to mea­sure the sum to­tal not only of eco­nomic out­put, but also of net en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, the spir­i­tual and cul­tural growth of cit­i­zens, men­tal and phys­i­cal health and the strength of the cor­po­rate and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems,” ac­cord­ing to In­vesto­pe­

rue said he was struck dur­ing his visit half way around the world by how all peo­ples yearn for life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, though dif­fer­ent cul­tures have their own ways of go­ing about those pur­suits. He noted that a study re­ported high lev­els of per­sonal hap­pi­ness in Bangladeshi gar­ment fac­tory work­ers.

The trip for True in­cluded a flight that put Mount Ever­est in di­rect view from his air­plane win­dow. He also hiked to a 10,000-foot pass that of­fered views of 20,000-foot­tall peaks, in­clud­ing the world’s tallest un­climbed moun­tain. The moun­tain, lo­cated in Bhutan, re­mains un­climbed be­cause that coun­try, with a strong Bud­dhist tra­di­tion, views the sum­mits of its moun­tains as sa­cred and does not al­low climbers ac­cess.

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